Experts Predict More Airline Outages due to Carriers' Aging Technology
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Recently, there have been lots of airline computer/technical "glitches" leading to massive delays and hundreds — or even thousands — of canceled flights:
- Delta (August 2016): Delta Power Outage Leaves Thousands of Passengers Stranded
- Southwest (July 2016): Southwest Airlines’ Computer Glitch Causes FAA to Issue Ground Stop on Its Flights
- American (September 2015): American Airlines Flights Grounded Due to Technical Glitch
- United (July 2015): Computer Bug Grounds United Flights Nationwide
With all of these outages of key systems, some may wonder if something sinister is occurring. Not so, says experts in the field. The main reason for the increased outages is the ancient reservations systems that airlines still use.
Former Chief Information Officers from American Airlines and United were interviewed by Reuters in the wake of the Delta outage last week. These experts pointed out that the core of the reservations systems for all airlines is built on 1960s technology. While there have been system updates over the years — and functional add-ons such as mobile check-in and first-class upgrades — the base reservation system predates the personal computer.
These systems would require a complete overhaul to avoid future issues. However, for many years airlines struggled to avoid — or recover from — bankruptcy. With money tight, any changes or upgrades to these information systems were a very low priority, unless these changes would provide an immediate cost savings. This sustained short-term focus means that airlines haven't worked to install additional back-up systems or ensure that the back-up systems they have are robust enough.
Unfortunately, this means that airline system glitches are likely to continue until these airlines overhaul their systems. While Delta was generous this week with fee waivers and vouchers, there's no guarantee that other airlines will be as gracious. Make sure to book your flights with the right credit card to cover yourself for delays and cancellations. Some top choices include the Citi Prestige Card (offering $500 per person in compensation for 3+ hour delays) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (with $500 per person in compensation for 12+ hour or overnight delays).
Have your travel plans been affected by an airline's technical glitch?